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Do Humidifiers Help With Allergies?
Studies show that more than half of the U.S. population suffers from some form of allergies. Hay fever alone, also known as allergic rhinitis, affects a staggering 60 million people.
Do these statistics include you?
If so, you're too familiar with the runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion that can accompany an allergic reaction. You'd do anything to find long-lasting relief.
Turns out, the answer could be closer than you think.
You've seen them advertised to help with dry skin and cold symptoms, but do humidifiers help with allergies?
The answer is "absolutely"! Today, we're diving into the facts behind how humidifiers work and the specific ways they can target, relieve and help prevent an allergic reaction.
What Are the Different Types of Allergies?
From pollen to pet dander, there are many environmental triggers that could cause allergies. Yet, these aren't the only things you might be allergic to.
A few of the most common types of allergies include:
- Allergic rhinitis
- Allergic asthma
- Allergic eczema
- Food allergies
- Insect venom allergies
- Drug allergies
- Latex allergies
- Skin contact allergies
For this article, we are going to focus on the top four allergies mentioned in this list. While humidifiers can help treat a range of allergic symptoms, they are not intended to be used as a treatment for food allergies, latex allergies, or any other contact-based condition.
They are, however, incredibly useful when it comes to treating allergies linked to environmental particulates. Next, let's review how a humidifier can help treat these conditions.
As mentioned, allergic rhinitis is also called hay fever. It's brought on by a variety of indoor and outdoor allergens. Some of the most common ones include:
- Dust mites
- Animal skin
When you breathe in these tiny particles, it can cause a variety of symptoms to develop. Most often, you'll experience swelling and inflammation in your nasal passages.
This can lead to a stuffy or runny nose, along with:
- Itchy, watery eyes
If you notice that your sinuses tend to act up in the springtime when the pollen count is high or when you're up in the attic breathing in decades-old furniture and collectibles, allergic rhinitis is likely to blame.
How a Humidifier Can Help
How can a humidifier help relieve your symptoms of allergic rhinitis? Put simply, it helps reduce the inflammation in your nose.
If your nasal passages are already inflamed due to allergies, dry indoor air can exacerbate the issue and make it much more uncomfortable. In fact, it isn't uncommon for sores and blisters to develop inside or around your nose in response to these arid conditions. You can even get nosebleeds!
If you're constantly blowing your nose or sniffling due to an allergic reaction, you don't need to breathe in dry air. Not only could it damage your nose even more, but it can also turn your eyes red and make your skin itch.
Rather, you need to amplify the relative humidity levels in your home, and a humidifier can help you do so.
As you breathe in the water vapor that emits from the machine, you'll find that you can breathe more easily. Anyone who's ever lied awake at night due to a blocked nose knows the sheer relief this can bring!
This is because your nasal passages are finally able to relax. As they do so, mucus can flow more freely out of your body. You'll find that your coughs are more productive, as are your nose-blowing efforts.
In time, this can help relieve your symptoms. You'll also find that you're able to sleep through the night more easily! Plug in your essential oil diffuser to turn your bedroom into an oasis and drift into dreamland.
If left untreated, allergic rhinitis can fester in your body for weeks or even months. From there, it can lead to sinusitis, also known as a sinus infection.
Though the two have similar symptoms, it's important to differentiate between these conditions.
Allergic rhinitis occurs after you breathe in something to which you are allergic. It causes the inside of your nose to become swollen and inflamed.
Conversely, with sinusitis, the lining inside of your sinuses becomes inflamed. This inflammation can be either acute (temporary) or chronic (long-term). Once your sinuses are blocked, they fill up with fluid and become a breeding ground for bacteria.
If you've ever experienced a pounding sinus headache or blown out yellow secretions, you've seen the output of those germs at work.
In addition to allergic rhinitis, there are other medical conditions that can lead to sinusitis, including the common cold and nasal polyps.
How a Humidifier Can Help
Humidifiers not only help moisten and reduce inflammation in your nasal passages. The water vapor can also travel into your sinuses and provide similar relief there.
When the air around you is too dry, the mucus that normally protects your sinuses isn't allowed to flow properly and can become stuck. If this occurs at the same time that your nasal passages and sinuses are inflamed, your breathing can easily become restricted.
To make matters worse, you might also be suffering from a sinus headache or chest congestion!
Thankfully, when you breathe in the moist air that a humidifier provides, the painful burning and the dry sensation in your sinuses can subside. Blockages and congestion are also loosened so you can take deeper breaths and ease into a deeper sleep.
While a humidifier alone cannot cure sinusitis, it can relieve some of its most aggravating symptoms. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor can prescribe a range of treatment options that include:
- Nasal irrigation
- Nasal steroids
- Prescription drug therapy
The same conditions that might cause your eyes to water and your nose to itch can trigger a full-on asthma attack in others.
This is a condition known as allergic asthma, and it's the most common type of asthma. In fact, around 90% of kids who have childhood asthma also have allergies, while 50% of adults with asthma do.
If you have allergic asthma, your symptoms will show up after you breathe in air that contains irritating particulates, such as pollen or dust mites.
The only issue? Your airways are extra-sensitive to these substances, and your reactions exceed what's considered a normal allergic response. Once they enter your body, your immune system springs into action and overreacts.
In response, the muscles around your airways become tighter. They also swell up and become filled with mucus. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult to breathe. Some of the symptoms you might experience when you're in the throes of an allergic asthma attack include:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Tightness in your chest
Knowing Your Triggers
This can be an especially complicated medical condition to treat because the reality is that allergens are everywhere. They're all around us, even when we keep our homes as clean as possible.
That's why it's important for sufferers to know their triggers and avoid them as much as possible. In addition to environmental allergens, other irritants can also trigger an asthma attack, even if you don't experience an allergic reaction. These include:
- Smoke (tobacco, candles, fireplace, incense)
- Cold air
- Air pollution
- Chemical fumes
- Scented products (perfumes, air fresheners)
How a Humidifier Can Help
Keeping your air at the ideal relative humidity levels (between 30% and 60%) can help keep your allergic asthma at bay.
If the air around you is too dry, it can cause your nose and throat to become irritated. Not only can these conditions make the common cold worse, but they can also make it more difficult to control your asthma.
However, it's important to keep an eye on your humidity levels. While 60% is the maximum threshold for most people, it's best to err on the side of caution if you suffer from allergic asthma. Keep your levels to around 50% if possible.
If they creep past that level and your indoor air becomes too humid, it could encourage certain allergens, including dust mites and mold, to grow. In turn, this could make your asthma worse.
Moreover, ultra-humid air can also be very heavy, which can make it more difficult to breathe. However, in many instances, the pros can outweigh the cons.
A humidifier can help open your airways and make it easier to breathe. It can also help your body rid itself of mucus buildup and soothe irritation associated with ongoing coughing and wheezing.
Allergic eczema is an itchy, uncomfortable skin rash that develops when you come into contact with an allergen.
While some people experience coughing, sneezing, burning eyes or a runny nose when they breathe in an irritant, others experience a delayed reaction after their skin touches a particular substance.
In many cases, allergic eczema won't show up until about 24 to 48 hours after contact. Some of the most common triggers include:
- Soaps and shampoos
- Nickel (jewelry, belt buckles)
- Clothing dyes
- Hair dyes
- Cleaning products
- Poison ivy, oak or sumac
- Creams and lotions
In addition to a rash, sufferers can experience a range of symptoms, including:
- Burning sensation
- Oozing, draining, crusting
- Warmth at the spot
- Scaly, raw skin
- Thickened skin
That said, you need some relief! Your first measure of defense should be to wash the affected area with cool water to remove as much of the allergen as possible. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor might also recommend moisturizing creams or even prescription creams to help relieve your irritation.
How a Humidifier Can Help
One of the most common signs of an allergic eczema attack is excessive dryness. As you itch and rub the affected area to release histamines, your skin can become even drier.
This is where a humidifier can offer incredible relief.
As they're designed to put humidity back into the air, these can help moisturize your skin and help reduce the irritation you're feeling. While they cannot cure the condition or offer long-term treatment, they can help you momentarily stop itching and ease into a better night's rest.
Do Humidifiers Help With Allergies? Notes to Remember
Running your home humidifier can help alleviate a range of allergic conditions. Yet, it's important to keep it clean and well-maintained to ensure your efforts don't work against you.
When you fail to clean your humidifier on a regular basis, the moist environment in the tank can encourage the growth of bacteria, mold and other harmful microorganisms. If you then run the unit as normal, those organisms are released back into your indoor air, along with your sensitive airways.
It's best to deep clean your humidifier once a week, and remember to change the water every day. In addition, the following best practices can help keep your unit as sanitary and fresh as possible:
- Use demineralized or distilled water, not tap water
- Clean off any mineralized crusts
- Change the filter weekly (if applicable)
- Use natural cleansers (vinegar) rather than chemicals (bleach)
Especially if you have an allergic reaction to dust mites or mold, a humidifier can make your symptoms worse if you become lax on your upkeep. As long as you keep up with these steps, you can use your system to your advantage and experience much-deserved relief.
Invest in a Home Humidifier for Allergy Relief
There are many important investments you'll make as a homeowner. A humidifier should be one of them.
Do humidifiers help with allergies? Yes, as long as you use them correctly.
Whether you suffer from seasonal allergies, sinus infections, asthma, eczema or a combination of these conditions, this machine can help.
When the air around you is filled with soothing water vapor, many of your most irritating allergic reactions can experience quick relief. Your itchy eyes become moist again, your skin is soothed and your nasal passages can flow normally again.
If you're tired of suffering from allergies, your doctor can help put you on a path toward long-term treatment. At home, a humidifier can be an excellent addition to that plan.
Looking for other products designed to make your home as comfortable as possible? Feel free to check out our full selection online. If you have any questions, reach out to us and let's connect.
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